What Business Owners Can Learn from Jimmy Iovine And Elton John

Editor’s Note: Haute Lawyer Network partner Brett Trembly of Trembly Law Firm recounts learning about how to grow his successful business through Jimmy Iovine’s experience of watching Elton John play the piano.

I recently watched The Defiant Ones, the incredible HBO docu-series about Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, and their rise to the top of the music world.  While there are many lessons and takeaways from this series, one, in particular, stood out to me – Iovine’s story about Elton John.

Elton John - Brett Trembly - July 2020 - shutterstock_1764489551Photo Credit: Shutterstock

When Iovine was young, he got a job at a music studio sweeping floors and doing odds and ends.  He was looking for a foot in the door, so he took it (another great lesson – but if you’re a business owner, you’ve already got your foot in the door).  Well, as Iovine tells the story, Elton John was supposed to come into the studio one day, but all they had was a dusty old piano.  The night before they kept tuning the piano over and over and trying to get it to make a world-changing sound worthy of Elton John, but they couldn’t.  Any time someone played it, they all shook their heads with fright at the thought of Elton John playing this terrible piano.  Without enough time to secure a new grand piano, they held their breath and hoped for the best.

The next day Elton John came in, and at the moment of truth, the tension was through the roof.  Then Elton started to play… and he made that piano sound like one of the best in the world.  What a relief – but more importantly, what a lesson.  It’s not the piano, it’s the piano player.

This is a hard lesson to admit to ourselves.  It’s a truth and reality I shied away from for years.  Early in the years of running my own law firm, I always had an excuse for why someone else’s firm was more successful than mine.  It must be the type of law they practice, I said.  If only I practiced [insert any other type of law here], I would clearly have a multi-million dollar law firm. The thing is – it’s not the type of law, it’s the owner.  It’s you.  That’s a hard thing to look into the mirror and admit.  But once you do, it’s the most freeing thing you can ever do for yourself, because you take back control of your success.  Blaming the type of law, the economy, or any other factor whatsoever is designed to protect your ego and make you feel better.  But time will wash away that temporary self-exalt.  When you take back responsibility for your success, then you can actually do something about it.  From there comes empowerment.  It’s called extreme responsibility.

You see, believing that it’s the piano that makes the player, or the business that makes the owner, completely ignores the thousands of hours of practice time that the musician put in that the rest of us didn’t. It ignores the decisions the business owner made to become successful and to grow their practice that the rest of us haven’t.  Show me a successful business owner, and I’ll show you someone that has taken risks, that has worked on self-improvement, and that has adopted the mindset of extreme responsibility – that they control their destiny, not some magical force like the economy, the type of law, or the type of piano.

When Tony Robbins says, “The chokehold on 80% of any business is the mindset of the leader,” he’s absolutely right.  Either you have worked on developing a growth mindset, which allows you to make a decision to grow your business and then to take action consistent with that decision, or you haven’t.  Do you know someone that knows they need more help, but they toil for months with the idea of hiring and never make any moves?  That’s the mindset.

The Trembly Law Firm was recently named to the prestigious Inc. 5000 list, a company that I started from scratch with only debt to my name.  The first few years of running the law firm, I wondered why it wasn’t growing.  Thankfully, I finally did some soul searching (and a lot of reading), and realized why – it was me, and my mindset, as the owner.  I was playing it safe because no matter what I told myself, the following was true: I was afraid to fail.  Fast forward a few years later and we have ten attorneys and 22 employees, with no end in sight.

This article isn’t about us, however.  It’s about you, the business owner, the employer.  The one staying up late worrying about payroll or dealing with the customer complaint.  The one worrying about finding new space, wondering if your business insurance is still up-to-date, and wishing you had reviewed your employment handbook sometime within the last few years.  Or, worst case, you’re worried about getting sued.  Our mission at the Trembly Law Firm is to protect the economy, one business at a time, and that means shooting straight and delivering news that business owners need to hear.  As a business owner, you must protect yourself, because you have a target on your back for a multitude of lawsuits that are rampant right now.  It’s up to you to do what needs to be done to protect yourself, and that starts with working with the right people.

Have you properly trademarked your name, your brand, and any special initiatives you have?  Have you had your contracts thoroughly prepared and reviewed?  Have you kept detailed HR files on all of your team members?  Is your operating agreement up to date?  Don’t feel bad.  If you’re like most business owners, the answer is probably “no.”  But also don’t ignore reality.  You’ve told yourself you’re too busy, or that it’s too expensive (without actually knowing the cost).  We all do it.  But you’re really just one bad moment away from dealing with a situation that will cost you ten times what it otherwise would have, had you been proactive in protecting your business.  Your family deserves it.  Your employees deserve it.  You deserve it.

Adopting a growth mindset means deciding to take action, that you can grow, that you do have the resources, and that you will make the time.  It also means deciding to associate with the right kinds of professionals.  At Trembly Law, for example, we have painstakingly uncovered over 50 items in your business that can trip you up at any moment and organized them into a proprietary system we use to protect our clients called “The Danger Zones.”  We represent over 250 South Florida businesses as part of our General Counsel program, striving each day to protect what they’ve built.  Do you have that type of protection looking out for you?

The good news here is that you don’t have to be Elton John to grow and protect your business.  You just have to admit to yourself that you and you alone are responsible for your success and that every decision you make – like to protect what you have worked so hard to build – is directly shaped by your mindset.  It’s not the piano.  It’s you – the piano player.  If you’d like to work with the Miami business law firm that gets it (and you can read more about our unique competitive advantages HERE), we’d love to help you take extreme responsibility for your success.  The choice is up to you.

Brett Trembly is a member of the exclusive, invitation-only Haute Lawyer Network. Visit his Haute Lawyer profile: